Ask a Brazilian: Hijab

September 9, 2013

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren&rsquot;t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send your own comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

Hello, I am a Muslim university student from Canada, and I plan on doing an exchange program in Brazil in the coming summer of 2014. Since I’m muslim, I do wear the hijab (religious head scarf). My question to you is, what do the brazilians think of a woman who covers her hair, and if its going to be a problem. Will I be safe walking around?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope to hear from you soon!

— Hodan

There is no need to worry about wearing a hijab in Brazil, the only possible hassle is maybe coming on Summer, as it can get very hot in some regions.

Just like Canada, Brazil is a melting pot, famous for its people’s diversity and freedom of religion. Especially if you go to Bahia or anywhere close to the amazon jungle, where the array of churches and beliefs is vast.

As any other country in the American Continent, we had massive waves of immigration, mostly from Portugal, Italy, Japan and Africa (all over). But unlike Canada, the people tend to amalgamate very easily, given the friendly and open atmosphere of the country. Thus Religious syncretism is very common all around and it’s actually easy to see Catholic elements (like the Holy Mother) mixed with African Gods in the same religion, being worshiped together. From an anthropological perspective this type of religious practice is commom when different civilizations merge or live closely together.

The important thing is that people respect each other very much in all states of Brazil. Racism is something very much lighter when compared to Canada or especially the USA and Brazilian people are friendly regardless of your beliefs. By the way, the hijab can be seen as something intriguing here and people will certainly start a conversation with you all the time.

Welcome to Brazil!


Our Brazilian-You-Can-Ask is Rodrigo, the Academic Director of English for Business, an English school focused at the Corporate Market in São Paulo.

Readers Comments:

Most travel sites recommend that you try to blend into the country you’re visiting. Your hijab would draw attention to you. In most of the country you do not see many hijabs. (Wikipedia’s article on Islam in Brazil.) You would be targeted not for religious beliefs but as a tourist.

Brazil has not seen a large immigration since the 1960’s. Canadians are used to immigrants and visible minorities, as we have seen heavier levels of immigration. A hijab does not stand out as much as it would in Brazil.
The fact is you’re coming from one of the safest countries in the world to one that is not so safe. The crime here is also more violent , murders for cells phone and for $R30.00.

Please come to Brazil, it is a beautiful country, just be careful… all the common sense stuff.

— Mu (a Canadian living in Brazil – have been coming here for 13 years, have lived here for 2. I have traveled the country extensively)

Salaams Hodan,

I am a Muslim from the UK and have visited Brazil numerous times over the last 15 years. While the numbers of Muslims are small outside Rio/São Paulo and one or two other places in the South (I visit Salvador mainly and this city of 2.5 million has around 25 muslims and 1 mosque) I have not encountered any problems apart from once when I was called Bin Laden as I was wearing a thobe.

In terms of religious diversity Brazil is still very much Catholic with small numbers of Jews but saying this its still a very tolerant place as most Brazilians are kind hearted and genuinely inquisitive without being judgemental

Enjoy your trip

— Hanif

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you&rsquot;re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous articles in this series:

Ask a Brazilian: Insects
Ask a Brazilian: Dogs
Ask a Brazilian: Yawning
Ask a Brazilian: Visas and Toilets
Ask a Brazilian: Meu Amor
Ask a Brazilian: Birthdays and Relationships
Ask a Brazilian: Tourism and Gestures
Ask a Brazilian: Manners and Jealousy
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Missed Dates
Ask a Brazilian: Renting
Ask a Brazilian: Couples and Separate Rooms
Ask a Brazilian: Investments and Lateness
Ask a Brazilian: São Paulo Safety
Ask a Brazilian: Family Closeness
Ask a Brazilian: Jealousy
Ask a Brazilian: Waxing and Electronics
Ask a Brazilian: Nails and Spanish
Ask a Brazilian: Easter and Surnames
Ask a Brazilian: Tipping
Ask a Brazilian: House Buying and Apartment Entry Problems
Ask a Brazilian: UK Visa Issues
Ask a Brazilian: Dating in Brazil
Ask a Brazilian: Gossip
Ask a Brazilian: A Question of Race
Ask a Brazilian: Real Estate Scam
Ask a Brazilian: Corruption and Lula
Ask a Brazilian: Lacking Change and I Touch Myself
Ask a Brazilian: Leather and Telephones
Ask a Brazilian: Tampons
Ask a Brazilian: Treatment of Animals
Ask a Brazilian: A Brazilian CV
Ask a Brazilian: Well-to-do Ladies
Ask a Brazilian: Gender Stereotypes
Ask a Brazilian: All Souls Day and Halloween
Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

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